Why the Kochs Want to Make Chris Christie President
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As the New York Times' Peter Applebome described it:
[W]hat's most telling about the jousting between the powerful teachers' union with 200,000 members and the Colossus of Trenton is how much it is emblematic of this moment in state and local governance, like the figurehead on a giant sailing ship.
In short, Chris Christie set the stage for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's assault on public-sector unions, as well as those launched by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder -- all efforts backed by Americans for Prosperity.
And that's really where the draft-Christie strategy comes together: marshaling middle-class rage in the service of David Koch's anti-labor, anti-regulatory agenda.
Christie kicked off his speech with his favorite Ronald Reagan story, as he called it: the story of the 1981 of the firing of the air traffic controllers who went on strike, despite a prohibition against strikes by federal workers -- a rule that had never been fully enforced. "President Reagan ordered them back to work," Christie said, "making it clear that those who refused would be fired. Thousands refused, and thousands were fired." The audience applauded. Reagan's handling of the air traffic controllers' strike led to the decertification of the the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, and changed the power dynamic between labor and management across all sectors of the workforce.
In his telling of the story of the PATCO strike, Christie seemed to be trying to inoculate himself against the criticism he would likely encounter on the presidential campaign trail, should he choose to travel it, for his lack of foreign policy experience. Reagan's firing of the air traffic controllers sent a message to world leaders, Christie said, that Reagan couldn't be messed with. "The Reagan who challenged Soviet aggression, who attacked a Libya that supported terror, was the same Reagan who stood up years before to PATCO at home for what he believed was right," Christie said. "All this does and should have meaning for us today."
In one fell swoop, Christie compared a labor union representing federal workers to the Evil Empire and a terrorist state. And in citing Reagan's firing of the air traffic controllers, Christie surely meant an implicit comparison to the layoffs of thousands of New Jersey teachers whose school districts failed to implement the contract changes demanded by Christie.
Not a Perfect Tea Party Candidate
While his anti-labor bona fides may impress the average right-winger in search of red meat, glance at Christie's record for more than a few minutes, and you'll find a less-than-perfect candidate for the Tea Party crowd, which nonetheless seems to like him.
On immigration, he's been, in the past, to the left of Rick Perry, and has said that being in the United States illegally is not a crime, but an administrative matter. Christie has also endorsed "a path to citizenship" for those who are here without documents. At last night's Reagan Library speech, however, Christie staked out a position on education of undocumented immigrants that was in direct response to one that has Perry in trouble with his right-wing base: access to the state university system at in-state tuition rates to the children of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. when they were children. To do anything less, Perry said in a recent debate, would be "heartless."
"I want every child who comes to New Jersey to be educated," Christie told his California audience. "But I do not believe that for those people who came here illegally, that we should be subsidizing, with taxpayer money through in-state tuition, their education. And let me be very clear, from my perspective, that is not a heartless position; that is a common-sense position." The crowd offered a sustained round of applause.